Former editor of Dazed & Confused, Rod Stanley is the editor (or El Comandante) of Good Trouble, an extra large broadsheet newspaper currently in its #22 issue, which is actually only the second issue. Confused? Read the interview with Stanley and see the light of daze. Also learn why periodicals are important at this time when truth is on the edge and sanity is in the balance,
How, why and when did you launch Good Trouble?
Good Trouble started life the day after Trump’s election in November 2016. It didn’t have that name at the time, but it was set up to be a digital-only space telling stories from the intersection of arts and culture with protest and activism. It’s always been an area of culture I’ve been interested in, and I felt that it was important to try to do something, anything, to push back at what was (and is) going on politically and socially – the triumph of lies, hate and bigotry in the US, UK, Europe and around the world. I used to be editor of Dazed & Confused (2005-2012) but apart from some freelance writing, had not been involved in publishing for some years. With the help of friends, we grew it into a website, then I was asked to be involved with a panel and event. I promised I would make some sort of DIY zine for the event, but after discussion with my friend Richard Turley, we decided to produce a one-off broadsheet newspaper, which we distributed online and received a lot of positive attention, so we have now just come back with issue two, one year later. We pivoted to print, I suppose you could say.
What does the title connote and what does it say about your content?
I took it from this quote by the Georgia congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis: “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation, a mission and a mandate, to stand up, to speak up and speak out, and get in the way, get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble.” “Good trouble” is a phrase that he uses quite often to refer to the actions and protests that people sometimes have to take in order to stand up for what they believe. I felt it perfectly encapsulated everything the publication wanted to celebrate: irreverence and a spirit of rebellion, with a positive cause.
Calling this #22 suggests a long run and a certain amount of success. How do you define that success?
Ah, that’s an unintended illusion, the first issue was called ‘Issue 23’ and this, our second issue, is called ‘Issue 22’. We started in the middle and now we’re counting down to something or other, I’m not sure what yet. Simply to publish a second issue in this climate, and to have people want to buy and stock it, feels like a success at the moment.
Interesting conceit, that. I was fooled. In any case, who are you reaching? And, more to the point, haven’t you heard that people don’t read anymore?
A good question. I’ve talked a bit about the difference between ‘community’ and an ‘audience’, which someone else described with a good phrase: ‘A community doesn’t disappear when someone changes an algorithm’. So, we have a small audience but I think it’s a strong community. We pretty much sold out the first issue’s limited-run of 1000 copies, and with the help of Stack Magazines distributing issue 2, and various other people stocking it, we have got through the lion’s share of 6000 copies of issue 2 that we printed. I can’t guarantee people are reading it, but it’s a very text-heavy format (apart from the pull-out poster artworks) and there’s a lot of stories, so I can only presume people are interested in the words, as well as the images. And we do get a lot of feedback, insights and suggestions from followers on social media and in our email – from all over the world, various age groups, all socially engaged of course.
I’ve watched (and participated) in newspapers that have reduced their sizes from grand broadsheets to tiny tabs and Berliners. Why so big?
I think that’s exactly the appeal, and certainly Richard was interested to make it as big as we could and use this somewhat archaic format for our own subversive purposes. I suppose it’s because we weren’t subject to the same commercial pressures and we like to be as contrarian as possible.
What is your most challenging editorial concern?
As a Brit living in the US, it is hard to avoid the ongoing horrors of the Trump administration. Just as an example, there are still more than 500 kids separated from their parents in US custody – more than a month after a court ordered them to be reunited. It’s horrendous. It’s simply inhumane. Its weaponized incompetence. But I try to take as wide a view as possible, and include stories from around the world and related to a variety of causes, from climate change to the refugee crisis. Though for practical and resource-related reasons, there’s an obvious skew to New York and London as dual home-bases.
What’s next for the paper?
I really want to get round to making some Good Trouble tea-towels.